Five Outlandish Predictions For The SEC: Part II
By Dan Harralson
It's prediction time – and outlandish prediction time at that. At this time of year, everyone and their mother make their preseason predictions. Who's going to win the Heisman? Who's going to win their conference, and who's going to play in and win the national championship? The debates are bottomless.
So, let's get started. My thoughts, observations and outlandish predictions for the SEC in 2014:
Jake Coker Is The Next Cam Newton
News surfaced over the weekend that backup Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson "guaranteed" that Nick Marshall will be the Tigers' fourth Heisman Trophy winner in school history.
“He led us to the national championship (game), and we were 13 seconds away,” Johnson told Al.com's Brandon Marcello.
“And this year he got better at passing, better at running, better at making reads. He’s become a leader on this team and I’ve never seen him so amped at practice every day the way he is, the way he comes out. So, I know for a fact he’ll win the Heisman.”
The most-recent Tiger to win the sport’s most prestigious trophy at Auburn is current Carolina Panthers signal-caller Cam Newton – and Newton is where my first prediction comes into play for the 2014 college football season (or even 2015).
Jake Coker will be the new Cam Newton. Wait…what?
Newton is remembered for his lone season at Auburn, winning the 2010 Heisman Trophy, as well as Auburn's first national championship since 1957. The 2010 national championship was not Newton's first title — he won the 2008 crystal ball backing up Tim Tebow — before getting kicked out of Florida.
Jake Coker has arrived on campus in Tuscaloosa and is set to be Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin's savior for restoring order in the state of Alabama. Coker backed up a Heisman winner and was on a national championship team last year at Florida State. Sound familiar? Coker is no longer backing up Jameis Winston, he's his own man at Alabama. Coker is the new Cam Newton.
Jeremy Johnson can guarantee a Heisman Trophy for Nick Marshall, but the thing Johnson needs to keep an eye on is Coker being the next Newton by duplicating multiple national championships at multiple schools.
Florida Will Bring Dan Mullen Home
It's crazy to think that Florida went 4-8 a season ago, their worst season since 1979. Remember when Ron Zook was fired for only winning eight games? And now Will Muschamp essentially needs eight wins to remove himself from the hot seat.
A lot of buzz is centered on quarterback Dak Prescott and head coach Dan Mullen at Mississippi State this season – and deservingly so. Enough of a buzz that Mr. College Football, CBS Sports’ Tony Barnhart, was at Mississippi State's practice on the day of the SEC Network launch. That's right, at the Bulldogs' practice. Barnhart was not in Athens, Auburn, Baton Rouge, Columbia, nor Tuscaloosa. He was in Starkville.
If Mississippi State lives up to the hype and Muschamp continues to head for the exits in Gainesville, you better believe Florida Athletics Director Jeremy Foley and Gator Nation will try to lure Mullen home. The Gators’ former offensive coordinator will provide a better identity and fit for the Florida program than Muchamp's defensive philosophies.
The Vols Finally Beat Florida
It's been a long 10 years since Tennessee last defeated the Florida Gators. Butch Jones is building the program brick-by-brick on Rocky Top. He's already defeated Steve Spurrier, something Hall-of-Famer Phillip Fulmer struggled to do in his Tennessee tenure.
Tennessee catches a break in the schedule, getting the Gators in early October instead of the traditional early-September showdown. This helps the youthful Vols, who will have four games and a bye week under their belt before playing host to what could be a struggling Florida team.
A win over Florida will assure one thing in Knoxville – it's doubtful the Big Orange fans will be kept off the field after ending the decade-long streak.
'Bama Will Win It All Again Without Winning The Conference
Remember in 2011, Alabama had the fluke home loss to LSU – and the Tide was granted a national-title-rematch with the Tigers for the crystal football trophy? Well, the Crimson Tide handed it to LSU and won the national championship without winning the SEC in 2011.
Alabama could easily do that again in 2014. Over in the SEC East, Steve Spurrier and his Gamecocks finally have a conference schedule in their favor. South Carolina could run the regular-season schedule, minus the October matchup at Auburn, and still win the east.
Then you have the Iron Bowl that could pit two undefeated teams in Alabama and Auburn against one another. 'Bama hands Auburn its lone loss and wins the SEC West and Nick Saban lands another meeting with Steve Spurrier.
The 'Ol Ball Coach is 5-2 in his coaching career against Saban – the most successful coach against the four-time national champion. Spurrier can make it 6-2 against Saban and Alabama will still make the College Football Playoff.
And Saban brings home his fifth national championship.